Don’t Mess with the Mrs.
Nearly every town in America has a stretch of beat up, commercialized highway that looks like Route 1 in New Jersey. And nearly every American has done time waiting at light after light along such a pike, wondering if the road work will ever be done, barely surveying the landscape because, frankly, it’s not much to look at—just parking lots and shrubby-looking trees. These roads are about signs, really, the familiar bold letters that guide drivers to groceries, fast food, used cars, Wal-Mart, and the mall exits, signs which are pretty much the same everywhere. Everywhere except Lawrenceville, a Jersey town between Trenton and Princeton that, however generically suburban it appears at first glance, it happens to be the home of a one-of-a-kind American sign.
There’s no missing it. Slapped right on the side of an aging brick storefront is the big cartoon head of a smiling lady from the 1950’s, it seems, a sort of cross between Betty Rubble and Betty Crocker. And right by that perpetual grin, in big black letters, it reads “Mrs. G TV and Appliances.” This mom and pop shop looks to be all about the mom.
And there is truth in this advertising. For the last seventy years, Mrs. Beatrice Greenberg has presided over a robust New Jersey retail operation, surviving and in some cases beating out all the major electronics and appliance chains so prevalent in the Northeast corridor. Hers is an independent, one-store wonder in the appliance industry, a trusted community institution that does over 10 million dollars in annual sales volume. Mrs. G’s ability to maneuver in the marketplace and to form a succession plan that includes not one but two family lines is a story of business acumen as well as intense personal relationships. And remarkably, it’s a story that continues to be told in part by Mrs. G herself, who at age 92 still shows up seven days a week to watch over her Rt. 1 showroom.